National Security

Special Forces In Afghanistan Say There’s No Clear US Strategy

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Russ Read Pentagon/Foreign Policy Reporter
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A recently released Pentagon report shows Special Forces operators in Afghanistan often felt there was no clear strategy or clarity behind their orders.

The 700+ page report is the result of an investigation into last year’s accidental attack on a Doctors Without Borders (MSF) hospital in the Afghan city of Kunduz. Included in the hundreds of pages are several interviews with U.S. Army Special Forces personnel who expressed serious concerns over a lack of direction in the fight against the Taliban and al-Qaida in Afghanistan.

“‘How far do you want to go?’ is not a proper response to ‘How far do you want us to go?'” said one operator in the report.

The report shows that many Special Forces operators were not clear on the rules of engagement or how far they were allowed to go when accompanying their local Afghan National Army (ANA) trainees. One of the primary missions of the Special Forces is to embed with local partners and train them in various aspects of warfare, ranging from small unit tactics to fire support requests. Special Forces operators have been working with the ANA as part of Operation Resolute Support, the NATO mission to “train, advise assist” in Afghanistan, as opposed to engage in a direct combat role.

“It’s not a strategy and, in fact, it’s a recipe for disaster in that kind of kinetic environment,” said the unidentified soldier, who went on to note his team requested clarification on orders three times during the fight for Kunduz. “Sadly, the only sounds audible were the sounds of crickets … though those were hard to hear over the gunfire.”

Army Brig. Gen. Charles Cleveland denied reports claiming confusion among operators, though he did note a “lack of understanding in the West” regarding Operation Resolute Support. He noted 9,000 soldiers have been “retrained” on rules of engagement in response to the Kunduz incident. Additionally, 16 servicemen involved with the attack have been disciplined as a result of the investigation.

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